Bullying. Teasing. Harassment. No matter what term you choose to use, this behavior still hurts. That’s why organizations across the country, including Alegent Creighton Health, are taking a stand as part of Bullying Prevention Month to help parents recognize the signs of bullying and learn to talk to their kids about it.
"In my opinion, bullying has definitely changed over the years," notes Nathan Sudbeck, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist with Alegent Creighton Health Psychiatric Associates. "The old beliefs that kids need to fend for themselves have passed, given the new information we now possess regarding the long-term negative impacts bullying has on children both emotionally and behaviorally."
Children are not always forthcoming with parents or teachers about mistreatment by a bully, Sudbeck warns. All parents should be aware of less obvious signs of bullying so they can offer help for their child if necessary.
Signs your child is a victim of bullying may include:
- Unexplainable events (ripped clothing, bruises, repeatedly losing possessions, etc.)
- Sudden behavior changes (social withdrawal, anger outbursts, etc.)
- Decreased academic performance
- Frequent physical complaints which a child believes precludes him from going to school
- Excessively low self-esteem
- Frequent sleep difficulties
- Significant appetite changes
Although a lot of emphasis has been placed recently on the victims of bullying, Sudbeck believes parents of the students doing the bullying should be just as concerned. "It is important that parents and teachers regularly watch for students who bully others. Parents often miss these signs or may even take pride in their child’s abilities to, 'stand up for him or herself,' but some studies have suggested that these children may develop a number of social, legal, and emotional problems later in life."
Signs your child is a bully may include:
- Excessive preoccupations with popularity
- Over-competitiveness with classmates or siblings
- Constant refusals to accept personal accountability
- Repeated detentions in school
- Unexplainable acquisition of new belongings
- Frequent aggressiveness toward others
Communicating with your children about bullying can begin as early as toddlerhood. Sudbeck says that even from a young age, children can be taught about the negative effects of hitting, kicking and mistreating others. Then, as children mature and begin school, it is important to regularly talk with them about whether they feel they are being mistreated or if they mistreat anyone in class.
"Children who feel they are being bullied should be encouraged to come forward without fears of being ridiculed or labeled as a tattle-tale," Sudbeck says. "Parents need to repeatedly pass this message on to their children, explaining to them that they are not at fault and that there is nothing, 'wrong,' with them. Likewise, children should also be repeatedly reminded that if they see others being bullied, it is important to report it to an adult right away."
By addressing these issues early and often, parents will ultimately help their children become more familiar with identifying bullying while also more willing and able to put a stop to it as soon as it begins.